Plans to train govt officials on grass farming overseas draw flak
A government project on cultivating fodder for cattle is being tabled at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council or ECNEC amid criticism over a plan to send 32 officials abroad for training on grass farming.
The government had earlier faced scrutiny over its employees' overseas trips for training on cooking 'khichuri', digging ponds and canals, fish farming, transferring technologies, cultivating cashew nut and visiting tall buildings.
The latest proposal has similarly drawn the ire of netizens on social media after it came to light.
Md Zakir Hossain Akand, a member of the Planning Commission, said that the project on expansion of cultivation of advanced grass varieties and transfer of appropriate technology for development of animal nutrition to increase dairy production is expected to be tabled for ECNEC's approval on Tuesday.
According to the Planning Commission, the estimated budget for the project is Tk 1.01 billion, including Tk 1 million for the overseas training of each of the government officials.
If approved, the Department of Livestock Services or DLS will begin the project this year and wrap it up by March 2024.
Zakir said that he was aware of the social media backlash over the foreign training plans.
He, however, defended the proposal, arguing that those criticising the project had little insight into the initiative.
"Top milk-producing countries have made the achievements by putting in place effective policies. Researchers in these countries have invented nutritious grass varieties that help produce comparatively more milk from cows," he said.
Bangladesh will not need to spend billions of takas on the import of powdered milk annually if it succeeds in increasing domestic milk production, according to Zakir.
And to increase milk production, cows can be fed nutritious grass and granular fodder in small dairy farms, he said.
But small entrepreneurs can't undertake training abroad, the official opined.
The DLS officials will be able to train Bangladeshi dairy farmers and entrepreneurs once they are trained in the methods of grass farming, according to Zakir.
Dr Anwarul Haque Beg, dean of animal husbandry and veterinary medicine at the Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, however, sees no reason to send government officials overseas while emphasising the training of the field-level workers.
"There should not be criticism about training, but we must see who are going abroad. The project will yield good results if the officials at the division and district levels are sent abroad for training," he said.
Bangladesh itself researches nutritious grass at the Livestock Research Institute in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka. "Many advanced varieties invented by us are being cultivated there. Maybe the new project aims to train the officials on cultivating the most advanced varieties in the world," Dr Anwarul said.
Md Abdul Jabbar Sikder, director-general of DLS, said the production of milk has not increased in Bangladesh in 10 years although the farmers have more improved breeds of cows.
"We have proposed the project to increase milk production from these cows," said Sikder.
Field-level officials will be prioritised for the overseas training programme, he added.